Cultural Leadership in Action

Sahar, Kim, Lucas and Kai at 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney

Great news! Following the recent board meeting, the Biennale has appointed Sahar (Administration & Operations Coordinator) to lead the charge on creating a new Environmental Management Plan. The Biennale is making time available in Sahar’s work day so she can put some effort into this project.

Sahar has never done anything like this before, and she’s very excited about the opportunity – she strongly believes that it needs to be done.

But the first job, it seems, is to define the parameters of the job! How to begin?

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Hessian in Contemporary Art?

This photo is from Belle, Exhibition Coordinator at Sydney Biennale, and Cherie, the Head of Exhibitions, who have been supporting our project.

Here in the boot, Cherie and Belle are transporting some hessian to the Art Gallery of NSW. Belle told us that Brook Andrew (the Artistic Director of the Biennale) has been looking for ways to change materials use in the exhibition, which happens across a bunch of different venues.

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At the Board Meeting

Lucas and Kim (both in red) at the Biennale’s board meeting. The NIRIN 2020 Artistic Director Brook Andrew is on the right.

Sometimes when people ask “So, what kind of art do you do?”, I answer “Oh, mainly I make Google Docs”.

This is a joke of course, but it’s not entirely untrue. Alongside making things out of wood, printmaking, growing crops as artworks, and producing videos and songs, Kim and I do seem to create a plethora of Google Docs. Our projects have many moving parts, and we collaborate with heaps of people. Google Docs might not look very “arty”, but they can help guide a discussion, especially when you’re meeting with Important People with Limited Time.

Case in point – the time had come to meet the Biennale of Sydney’s Board of Directors. After hanging out with the staff semi-regularly for several months, we were ready to get some top-down support. So Belle, our main Biennale contact person, did her magic and booked us a spot at the January Board meeting.

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Grown up stuff

Kim Williams speaking to the Sydney Biennale staff in late May, 2019

In the last blog post I talked about how we have been working with kids to make a song which swims around in the mess of plastic in our everyday lives. While we’re working on all that fun stuff, and preparing for the exhibition at Cockatoo Island, we’re also working behind the scenes with the Biennale of Sydney staff, in activities which look more grown up.

The Biennale, via the Artistic Director Brook Andrew (himself an artist) has commissioned us to work on this project about plastics, in the hope of transforming some of the Biennale’s own processes. So we’re hybrids. We are making “artwork” for the exhibition, and at the same time we’re play-acting at being “organisational consultants” (if you can come up with a better name for this, let us know!).

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Plastic in the House – the song

Plastic in the House (captions version)
Plastic in the House (without captions)

Plastic-free Biennale has a whole bunch of moving puzzle pieces. Some of them are very “grown-up” looking, like meeting with the Board of Directors of the Biennale of Sydney (to urge them to update their environmental policy) or researching the science and history of plastic.

But other aspects of the project are pure fun, and allow an alternative way for our audience to engage with the complex world of plastics. For example, Kim Williams wrote a brilliant and ridiculously catchy song called “Plastic in the House” which we recorded with some local Wollongong kids.

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Manifesting

[detail from Household Audit Concrete Poem ]

The Biennale of Sydney wants to go plastic-free.

What could this mean? How could this work?

One of the things that the staff (and Artistic Director Brook Andrew) are keen to have is a “manifesto”.

What would a Plastic-free Manifesto look like, and how might it help shunt the organisation closer towards its goal?

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